Around Town: Elizabeth Olsen, Charlize Theron and More at the Gotham Independent Film Awards

elizabeth olsen
Photo: Getty Images
Elizabeth Olsen in a Valentino gown.

Big stars came out in force to celebrate small movies at the Gotham Independent Film Awards on November 28 in New York City.

“Every time someone recognizes the work that you can’t call work, that’s as good as it gets; it’s like a cherry on the cake,” said Charlize Theron before receiving her tribute award. “I mean, I get to do something every single day that I love, and don’t tell anybody, but I would it for free,” the Gucci-clad Oscar-winner added.

Theron’s fellow honorees included director David Cronenberg and actor Gary Oldman, who noted that being honored at the Gotham Awards is a distinctly New York experience. “It’s the Big Apple, it’s the town Sinatra sings about. So I’m very thrilled to be here,” the British-born actor said.

But the event, at the elegant Cipriani Wall Street, also involved a typical awards season competition, with categories for best feature film, ensemble performance and breakthrough director.

The breakthrough actor category had everyone on edge with Elizabeth Olsen for her role in Martha Marcy May Marlene, Shailene Woodley of The Descendants, and Felicity Jones of Like Crazy among the nominees.

“It’s really exciting,” Olsen said of her nomination. “This is the first movie I’ve ever done that’s ever been released, and it’s kind of an unreal experience.”

The 22-year-old sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley said that although they were celebrating indie films at the event, she went with full-on glamor in a shimmering Valentino gown. “Well, it’s my first award show, so I figured I might as well go big,” Olsen laughed.

Olsen’s competitor Felicity Jones, who went a bit more casual with a knee-length pale green Proenza Schouler dress, said before the ceremony that she’d just returned from London, so she hadn’t prepared a speech, and would be spontaneous it if she won. She did win, and said afterward that she couldn’t believe it when they called her name.

“I was in shock, I didn’t kind of get my breath; I didn’t think about preparing something because I thought the chances were very remote,” she said, still reeling. “And then I was, like, bloody hell, I’m going to actually have to make some sense.”

Also in attendance was 20-year-old Shailene Woodley, who wore a Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo and talked about playing George Clooney’s daughter in The Descendants.

“George is a super-human and he made me feel really comfortable and really confident, and he got to know me as a person, and I got to know him as a person,” she said. “When the cameras were rolling, he was an amazing dad, but as soon as the cameras quit, he wasn’t a dad anymore; he was my mentor/teacher/friend George Clooney.”

The evening’s big winner was Beginners, which took the ensemble performance award, and split the best feature prize with The Tree of Life. Beginners writer-director Mike Mills explained that the character played by Christopher Plummer was based on his own dad. Ewan McGregor played the son, so that would mean. ... “Yeah. Based on my looks, I thought, well, who looks as good as me? Ewan, maybe,” Mills joked. How did Mills plan to celebrate the big win? “I’m going to call my wife,” he said.

Edie Falco and Oliver Platt hosted the awards ceremony, and the crowd was swarming with movie types including Melissa Leo, Alec Baldwin, Ang Lee, Hugh Dancy, Beau Bridges, Jason Reitman, Lake Bell, Zachary Quinto and Tilda Swinton, stunning as ever in Haider Ackermann. Fashion darling Swinton, who was sniffling due to a cold, acknowledged that designers “very kindly” send her clothing. “More than I can use. I live on a farm.”